Senator Joe Pittman will soon introduce legislation to reduce the amount of funding diverted each year from essential transportation improvement projects to support State Police operations.
Senator Pittman’s legislation significantly expedites the timeframe for reducing the diversion of money from the state’s Motor License Fund (MLF) – which supports highway and bridge improvement efforts – to fund the State Police.
Since Fiscal Year 2012-13, the MLF has provided more than $4.25 billion for State Police operations, money that otherwise would have allowed PENNDOT to undertake more highway infrastructure improvement projects, according to the senator. As part of the Fiscal Year 2016-17 budget, funding from the MLF to the State Police was capped at $801 million with a schedule to decrease that amount to $500 million over a 10-year period. With eight years left in the current plan, Senator Pittman’s legislation would reduce that timeframe to four years.
Current law calls for a transfer of about 4 percent each year until reaching $500 million in Fiscal Year 2027-28. Senator Pittman’s proposal would double the transfer to about 8 percent each year until Fiscal Year 2023-24.
“The State Police definitely provide an essential role in promoting highway safety, but the ultimate way to improve highway safety is to rebuild our deteriorating highways and bridges,” Sen. Pittman said in a statement. “My bill does not reduce funding for the State Police, but rather shifts the source of the support to the General Fund budget. The State Police need and deserve the full funding necessary to fulfill their mission. When Act 89 of 2013 was enacted, Pennsylvanians were promised a significant investment in improving our deteriorating highway system,” Senator Pittman continued. “We need to continue that promise and ensure tax dollars earmarked to maintain and improve our roads and bridges are used for that purpose. My legislation will move us in that direction more expeditiously.”
A 2016 Legislative Budget and Finance Committee (LBFC) report determined that 47 percent of State Police manpower hours were dedicated to highway safety (i.e. patrolling roads, preventing and responding to accidents, enforcing traffic violations, etc.).
“The LBFC estimated the annual cost of those highway safety efforts to be about $500 million,” Sen. Pittman said. “Subsequently, the plan to cap and gradually scale back funding from the MLF was put into place as part of the budget agreement. As our revenue outlook improves, I believe the timing is now right to accelerate the shift to funding the State Police through the General Fund and use the MLF for its intended purpose — to improve the condition and safety of our highways and bridges.”
Sen. Pittman added that the state’s 12 year plan transportation plan could be further restricted by potential cuts in funding over the next 10 years. A recent report, Threats to Transportation Funding in PA, indicated that the state could lose a cumulative $6 billion in federal funds due to the insolvency of the Highway Trust Fund and by a cumulative $3.6 billion in state funds if a vehicle sales tax transfer is repealed and payments from the Turnpike Commission are reduced.
“This means we must act now to protect funding for transportation projects,” Sen. Pittman said. “The potential loss of state and federal funding would have a severely detrimental impact on PENNDOT’s efforts to rebuild our crumbling roads and bridges.”